Variety Editor in Chief Claudia Eller will resume her role on Oct. 26 following an almost five-month leave, as part of a restructuring at the media company, Variety announced Tuesday.
Eller will serve the remainder of her contract as EIC through summer of 2022. She will then be succeeded by Cynthia Littleton, formerly business editor who has been promoted to co-editor in chief, and another co-EIC, who will be named later.
Insiders tell TheWrap that it’s “an executive decision to allow Claudia to save face, but that most of the staff is unhappy about the return,” with some being “horrified” by the news. One insider told TheWrap that on getting the news “you could hear the loud collective groan coming from even an empty newsroom.”
In the last few weeks, Littleton had told staffers that Eller had “gotten the rest that she needed” and that she had undergone diversity and management training, insiders said.
In June, TheWrap reported that Eller was leaving her position temporarily “to take a serious moment of reflection,” following complaints made during a company town hall meeting.
Variety had held an all-hands company-wide meeting in the wake of criticism Eller received on Twitter from fellow entertainment journalists, including a fraught exchange with former Hollywood Reporter senior editor Piya Sinha-Roy, following an article she wrote about newsroom diversity. Eller convened the town hall to respond to rising staff pressure over the tweets, with Penske Media CEO Jay Penske joining the call.
In a letter to the staff following the town hall, Eller wrote, “The last few months have been an incredibly stressful and challenging time, for everyone. That said, there is no excuse for the Twitter exchange I had with Piya last night. I completely understand your anger and upset at me; it is not at all misplaced.”
Eller was referring to a tweet exchange with Piya Sinha-Roy, a former top editor at The Hollywood Reporter, in which she called the journalist “bitter.” At the time, an individual close to Penske said Eller would return.
According to two people at the town hall, Eller broke down in tears and apologized for her comments on Twitter. She then stepped off the group call and Penske opened up the floor inviting staffers to share their opinions. This opened the floodgates to complaints about Eller, including alleged abusive behavior toward editorial staff. One reporter shared that Eller had pushed staff to go into the field during coronavirus, despite their fears over doing so. Eller was put on leave following the town hall.
Eller, a former L.A. Times reporter, is known to be a sometimes brutally demanding boss. She joined Variety in 2013 to run the newsroom with a mandate to dominate in the highly competitive world of Hollywood trade reporting. TheWrap is a competitor of Variety.